ISSUE 2017-059

Reviews in this issue:

Duo Review
L'Anima - Departures
L'Anima - Departures
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 58:44
Links:
Track List:
Point Of No Return (5:42), Path To Sirius (7:28), Gema (6:05), My Dying Cell (5:35), Hold Out (8:22), My Bloody Silhouette (7:28), The Sound Of Waves (9:02), The Elephant Cemetry (6:46)
Philipp Röttgers' Review
L'Anima is a project founded by Pedro J. Caparros Lopez and Yardbirds vocalist Andy Mitchell. The experienced duo gathered some musicians to form a group: guitarist Mauro Paderni, bassist Luca Forlani and drummer Iban Sanz.

Their debut album Departures can be heard either as one single song or as eight connected single pieces that form a whole. The interludes are often filled with spoken words. The band's style is more of a progressive metal direction, with some nice little surprises like some Spanish guitar playing in My Dying Cell.

The song structures are typically complex, and there is some theatricality in the music, but also some strong and simple hooks that will not leave your head. The playing is flawless, but never over the top, and the focus is on the songs.

Everything is well produced and well thought through, and as a band they could be compared to is Pain Of Salvation. This album will surely be liked by progressive metal fans and it will be interesting to hear how the band will develop in the future.
Andy Read's Review
I've now been editing reviews for DPRP for around three years. Whilst going through each submitted critique, my habit is to play a track from every album via the "youtube" or "sample" link provided. As well as giving me a better idea of the music that is being scrutinised, it has greatly widened my knowledge of the genre. (500 reviews a year, multiplied by three. That is a lot of music.)

Admittedly, I will never listen to the vast majority of those albums again (for varying reasons). However every once in a while a real gem appears out of the word count; often an artist that I would otherwise never have tried.

Such was the case with this album. Whilst editing Philipp's review, I spun the video for the track Point of no Return. I loved it. I immediately listened to the whole album and enjoyed that too. Thus, here is a second opinion on Departures.

L'Anima is the brainchild of London-based musician Pedro J. Caparros Lopez, best known until now for his work with Breed 77, (pronounced Breed Seven-Seven) the Gibraltar-based outfit who ply a fusion of alt metal and flamenco.

The band started out as a collaboration between Pedro and Andy Mitchell, who is currently lead singer of The Yardbirds. Both have toured and recorded extensively, and it was a shared love of progressive music that brought them together. The band was completed by guitarist Mauro Paderni, bassist Luca Forlani and drummer Iban Sanz.

The result is a debut album that spurts between the sounds of heavy prog and melodic progressive metal. The band's approach is to deliver songs that are creative and complex, yet with immediately accessible end memorable melodies. Whilst sounding like neither, the style sits somewhere between Haken and Ark, with occasional brushes of the both the more accessible, and the more avant garde moments, of Leprous. The frequent use of Pedro's Spanish guitar stylings, lend the music an additional, distinct layer.

The first three tracks are pretty damn perfect slices of adventurous, heavy prog. The opening refrains of both Path to Sirius and Gema are inventive and addictive. Andy Mitchell's voice is unusual for this genre. He is no metal screamer, instead offering a rich, blues-tinged mid-range that again brings comparisons to Ross Jennings (Haken) and Jorn Lande (Ark). It is that, mixed with his innate sense of melody, that makes these three songs so memorable.

Behind him, the band delivers some complex arrangements but with great grooves holding it all together. Some of the drum work is stellar and Pedro lays down some seriously intricate chops. The Sound of Waves, and to a lesser extent Hold Out, use a similar recipe to solid effect. The melodic hook on the former is one of the album's best. This is modern, heavy progressive music of the highest quality.

Whilst I admire bands that take a few risks and mix-up the styles and influences, Departures does suffer from ... well ... too many departures. Whilst the choral additions to The Sound of Waves just about works, the use of operatics and two tenors on My Dying Cell totally ruins the song. It is out of place, badly arranged and unlistenable.

The use of production effects on the vocals is overdone. Considering the quality of Mitchell's voice, the need for any effects is questionable anyway. The second half of the album over-relies on a distorted guitar sound which loses the crispness and separation of the various elements that is a hallmark of the first three tracks. The drums also loose their groove and the closing track barely plods along, meaning the album closes with it's weakest number.

Overall though, this is a highly respectable debut album from a collection of artists that, from the first three tracks, has the ability to deliver an absolute classic of the genre. Just a little more time on the songcraft and depth to the compositions is required next time, to ensure the opening quality is maintained throughout.
Conclusions:
Philipp Röttgers: 7 out of 10
Andy Read: 8.5 out of 10

Machines Dream - Black Science
Machines Dream - Black Science
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 53:24
Links:
Track List:
Armistice Day (1:24), Weimar (10:40), The Cannons Cry (4:18), Heavy Water (8:36), Airfield On Sunwick (For Wojtek) (6:11), Black Science (8:17), UXB (4:59), Noise To Signal (8:47).
This is the third album from Canada's Machines Dream, but sadly the first I've heard, which is a shame, as this is a very strong album indeed, albeit one that is somewhat politically charged in its views. These views reveal themselves through the dark nature of the material and its subject matter. Taking in as it does, the rise of fascism, prostitution in 1930s Germany, the dropping of the first atomic bomb and then more recent events such as the proliferation of false news and the rise and abuse of the internet, it is all told in a very deep and occasionally challenging way.

My initial thoughts were of a more overtly prog Roger Waters, without the back history that affects so much of his output. It is a very musical album, with great playing throughout, and yes there is a Pink Floyd influence, especially on the guitar solo on Weimar. Vocally there is that Waters connection again, the lyrics throughout are very strong and effective and there is a great use of piano on most of the tracks, giving a good clear and distinctive sound to the music.

It is also good to hear lengthy tracks that actually go somewhere and have real validity as a result. Synths are used sparingly apart from on the track Airfield on Sunwick (For Wojtek) about a Syrian brown bear who accompanied the Polish 11 Corps during WW2. This is the most upbeat song, with the outro being sung in Polish adding real strength to it.

This is another fine release from Progressive Gears who also released the excellent The Man Who Never Was by The Winter Machine earlier this year, and seem to be a label that is attracting some great new prog outfits to their roster.

The whole album will definitely grow on you, as you pay attention to it over repeated listens, especially the likes of Weimar and Heavy Weather, which are both astoundingly fine songs that deserve a very much wider audience. Also of note is the very fine booklet that outlines the stories behind each song and provides valuable illumination into the band's thinking on this album.

I am really liking Black Science the more I play it and it will probably feature in my top 10 of 2017, a year that is proving to be somewhat of a bumper harvest of great new prog albums.

This is not the easiest album to get into, but I assure you that it is well worth the effort and investment in time, as it is a truly worthwhile album. Highly recommended indeed.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 8 out of 10

Anthony Phillips - Slow Dance (Remastered 2CD)
Anthony Phillips - Slow Dance (Remastered 2CD)
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 1990/2017
Time: 80:06
Links:
Track List:
Disc One: Slow Dance: Original Stereo Mix Re-mastered: Slow Dance (Part One) (24:01), Slow Dance (Part Two) (26:30)
Disc Two: Slow Dance Vignettes: Themes from Slow Dance (3:33), No Way Out (alternate mix) (4:26), A Slower Dance (5:39), Guitar Adagio from Slow Dance (1:35), Touch Me Deeply (demo) (4:02), Clarinet Sleigh Ride (3:58), Slow Dance Single Demo (alternate mix) (2:41), No Way Out (original mix with drums) (4:25), Lenta Chorum (1:16)
Although he is mostly known as a guitarist, I have a particular fondness for the symphonic, keyboard-oriented work of Anthony Phillips. There is a style to an album like Slow Dance that is so uniquely his own. It plays like a high quality film soundtrack or classical piece that demands and deserves a listener's full attention, from beginning to end. There is a lush, melodic quality that runs through much of the album and the results are captivating.

Upon receiving this remaster, I was quite happy that I hadn't heard Slow Dance for several years. It allowed me to listen to it somewhat anew, and as usual, I can't say enough about the job that Esoteric has done with this release. From a sound quality and packaging perspective, they have made the album well worth a re-purchase for anyone who had a previous version. The new stereo remaster sounds great, and the 5.1 Surround Sound mix is absolutely pristine. It opened the door to dynamics of the piece that I hadn't heard before.

This is one of those albums that upon a first listen may not instantly grab you. Its charms are often so subtle and intricate that it my take a while to fully blossom with the listener. Much of Phillips' work is like that, and repeated listens will reap significant rewards. Fitting together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle, the various segments of this 50-minute masterwork reveal themselves perfectly. Mixing keyboards with string and wind instruments, Slow Dance feels like a modern symphonic classic. It is a truly beautiful and compelling work, by a singular musical talent.

There is also a disc of demos and rare tracks included. I wouldn't classify any of them as essential, but the disc as a whole is quite entertaining. Ultimately, the real attraction here is the new version of the full Slow Dance album. If you are already a fan of this album, the new mix will allow you to appreciate it even more. If you are unfamiliar with it, this version is an essential, post-haste purchase. Kudos to Simon Heyworth for the great new remaster and to Esoteric for this fantastic release. Forgive my gushing, but this album is quietly very daring and brilliant. Part prog, part classical, part symphonic and all parts excellent! Slow Dance is a quintessential recording.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 10 out of 10

Rob Ramsay - Confound and Disturb
Rob Ramsay - Confound and Disturb
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 39.22
Links:
Track List:
Living Will (2:58), Open Up A Hole (2:30), Wizard Ramsey and Wizard Wilfred (3:44), Lesson 1 (0:18), Tramps in Their Purest Form (6:56), Ego Power (1:55), Lesson 2 (0:16), The Real Rap (0:58), The Black Box Society (3:02), Lesson 3 (0:19), Pagodas (1:07), Hawaii Fried Chicken (1:01), Lesson 4 (0:16), If I Ruled The World (3:59), Urban Crusoe (11:53).
Mad. Barking Mad. But oh so funny.

This is the new CD from ex-Tinyfish member Rob Ramsay and it is odd to say the least, as it is pretty much a spoken word comedy album. There are only two songs on it, one of which is a William Shatner-style spoken word version of If I Ruled The World, the other is a real song with music and guitars called Open up a Hole. Music does feature within several of the other tracks.

The opener, Living Will sets the tone for much of what follows over the next 42 minutes, and it speaks as if Rob Ramsay were leaving us his spoken last will and testament. Recalled in a very scathing manner, it is bettered only by Tramps in their Purest Form, telling the tale of Nurgh-born Peter Undertrousers in the Yorkshire town of Long Division and his meeting with Damien Hirst. It is a very funny piece indeed.

Also worthy of note is his Hawaii Fried Chicken theme and The Real Rap and the incredibly odd final song Urban Crusoe that features a Harmonica solo, a six-minute silent section, an end section where the names of Egyptian gods are repeated and a script from a short wave radio station. All totally mad but in its own way very clever.

Both Matt Stevens on Black Box Society playing some great guitar parts and fellow Tinyfish member Simon Godfrey also feature on this album to great effect. This is not a progressive album in any manner, but it is something that you definitely remember!

Not essential but if you can hear it you will invariably enjoy this twisted yet very humorous album.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 5 out of 10

Robert Schroeder - Velocity
Robert Schroeder - Velocity
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 63:01
Links:
Track List:
Velocity Of Flow (11:27), Strength Of Pressure (8:44), Xpress Yourself (7:54), Aftertouch (7:28), Velocity (9:36), Ribbon Control (8:37), Psychedelic (10:35)
Velocity is an old school electronic album. It reminded me of the 1970-1980s music of this genre, which is a positive. That isn't to say that the album sounds dated. There is a modern dynamic to the seven tracks included, but it does celebrate the classic German electronic sound to a large extent. This is logical, as the style presented here harkens back to the beginnings of Robert Schroeder's musical career.

Discovered in the late 70s by musician Klaus Schulze, Schroeder has been releasing albums ever since. His previous recordings have touched on many different sub-genres such as ambient, trip-hop and chill, but this album is very reflective of his origins. His bio references many influences, including Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze, Can, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

There isn't a strong rock element to be found on Velocity, but like many of his musical peers, (Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre), Schroeder combines synthisizer sounds with rhythmic percussion, while also focusing strongly on melody. Though the album impresses with its presentation of sweeping electronic sounds, it is really his melodic sense that makes the music so appealing.

There is also a good amount of diversity to the songs, which helps the album to stay fresh and interesting from beginning to end. Standout tracks exist in the album opener, Velocity of Flow, the rythmic Xpress Yourself and the pulsating title track.

Ultimately though, this is a consistently entertaining work from a very talented musician. Robert's name is not often mentioned with the greats that came out of the 70s era of electronic music, but that is unfair. This is his 36th album release and it is apparant that he is still striving to release high quality material. If your tastes in the genre fall more towards the classic electronica from the 70s and 80s, you will likely find much to enjoy about Velocity.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 8 out of 10

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Published Sunday 13 August 2017

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